British politician dismisses criticism for appearing on reality TV show

George Galloway, the firebrand British legislator, on Thursday dismissed as "sanctimonious humbug" the criticism he faced for spending three weeks on the reality TV show "Celebrity Big Brother." His decision to participate in the program, away from Parliament and alongside a topless model, an androgynous pop singer and former NBA star Dennis Rodman, resulted in criticism from constituents and questions in the House of Commons.

On Wednesday, the Respect Party legislator was evicted from the TV show. "They seem to have got it all out of proportion," Galloway said in an interview with Channel 4 television. "There are so many things happening in the world and they seem to have been devoting acres of newsprint to a reality TV show."

He said, "The way they have been going at me would suggest that they think they have something to fear from me and the Respect Party." He called the criticism he has faced in the British press "sanctimonious humbug."

Galloway said Britain's parliament "is full of people who jet around the world on fact-finding junkets to exotic places every day of the week and they are never hauled over the coals."

The fiery, left-wing populist said he was not paid his parliamentary salary while he was on "Celebrity Big Brother." When he emerged from the show, Galloway received good news and bad news about himself. A judge on Wednesday upheld his libel victory over a newspaper that accused him of receiving money from Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime. Galloway won 150,000 pounds (now worth US$270,000 or Ђ218,000) in damages from the Daily Telegraph in 2004 over claims that he received money from Saddam's government.

Galloway was expelled from Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party in 2003 for urging British soldiers not to fight in the Iraq war. He was re-elected to Parliament under the banner of the anti-war party Respect in May.

He has denied allegations that Saddam's regime allocated millions of barrels of oil in his name as part of a huge fraud in the prewar U.N. oil-for-food program.

On Wednesday, Britain's Serious Fraud Office said it was examining documents obtained from U.S. authorities about the oil-for-food scandal to decide whether there should be a criminal investigation in Britain.

Spokesman David Jones confirmed Galloway's name was included in the voluminous reports and documents, reports the AP. I.L.

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